Office Administrator: For close to 20 years, Colleen Dickman has been the backbone of Temple Beth Jacob, helping our members and friends navigate questions large and small. She is friendly, helpful, professional, and always the voice you want to hear on the other end of a phone call. A native of California, Colleen and her husband Scott are members of the Temple and raised both of their daughters at TBJ.
Religous School Principal: Noreen Leibson
Just as the Torah includes many “who begat whom” as a way to keep our lineage clear, I was “begatted” (my own word) by my parents, Sandy and Mel. While my parents were city kids, Bronx and Brooklyn, I grew up in Schenectady, NY. My family was very active in the local synagogue. I went to Hebrew school and Hebrew High. I went to Israel with USY Pilgrimage, a summer program for teens. That summer I fell in l love with Israel. In particularly Jerusalem. I returned home, finished high school and zoomed off to college in New Paltz. Ah, New Paltz, a small town that even in the 70’s was stuck in the late 60’s. I loved learning in college. Besides learning the academics, I learned a lot about activism. It was an exciting time. In my junior year, I went back for Israel for a year. I didn’t stay in the program at Hebrew University too long. Instead I created my own program where I learned to speak Hebrew and lived among Israelis, especially Yemenites.
After I finished college I moved to Cambridge MA. No matter where I looked, I could not find a position teaching in the elementary school. I decided to change my course and attend Boston University to earn my Master in Social Work. I enjoyed working with people of all ages, helping them meet the challenges they faced in their lives. It was a fulfilling professional time in my life. But even so, the yearning to teach never left me.
Immediately after earning my MSW, I secured my second MSW – Mitchell Stephen Wolper, my husband of 34 years. In 1986 we left the Boston area and moved to NH. We welcomed our first daughter, Hannah in 1989 and our second daughter, Emma in 1993. Just recently we welcomed our son-in-law, Jonah, to our family.
By this time, I was back in the field of education, Jewish education as the Education Director of The Phillip Porter Religious School at Temple Beth Abraham. I worked there for 20 years. During that time, I built up the school and program up one brick at a time. Together with the faculty and synagogue leadership, we added a Kindergarten and a Hebrew High School program. We initiated a series of compelling Family Education programs. Some were single events and others happened over time. As you can see, I am using the word, “we” as I describe my work. I am an ardent advocate of cooperation and collaboration. I invited our teachers, parents and even teens to plan, create and explore.
During these first 20 years, I was active in the Jewish Educators Assembly where I served on the board. I also was incredibly fortunate to be chosen for Mandel Teacher Education Institute where I studied with Jewish educators from all over the USA. Our teachers included many well-known scholars. I enjoyed being mentored by such powerful and insightful teachers of teachers. In fact, my experience in MTEI, set me up for the next big step in my professional life. In 2010, I was offered a position to be the Faculty Leader in DeLeT – Day School Leadership Through Teaching. For six years I had an office at The Mandel Center at Brandeis University. I like to say I was a big fish in a small pond in Nashua and moved to a very large lake as a small fish. I ate up every minute of my years there. I learned more than you can imagine. Between MTEI and DeLeT, my professional skills grew, and my work as a Jewish educator blossomed like a rose in the summer.
After the six years with DeLeT, the funding for the program dried up. I found myself back at Temple Beth Abraham. So much had changed in the world of supplemental education. As a veteran educational leader, I drew upon my skills to not only sustain but build up the school. Now I am with you at TBJ, Temple Beth Jacob. I moved from the house of Abraham to the house of Jacob. I feel very honored to be your principal. I am very much looking forward to meeting the students and their families. So far, I am in awe of what I see and love how open and warm everyone has been. I already feel like I am a part of the Beth Jacob tent, a blessed place where we will continue to tend our garden of spectacular children and teens.
I hope this gives you a sense of who I am. It is vital for Jewish families to come together as a way to strengthen and embrace our Jewish identities. This is not a solo trip. We do hand in hand, side by side. See you on the journey.